BERWICK ART ASSOCIATION MODspoke • Blackbird Studio • V!BE
The Berwick Art Association was founded in Berwick Maine in early May 2012 by artists Erin Thomas & Rick Burns. When Erin went to Rick (a former State Rep and fellow artist) with concerns about the town growing too quickly without art & artists being properly represented, his response was "Well, why not start an art association? We can do it together." Erin built a website, a social media page and a short term plan, while Rick set out to find more artists & creatives to join. The very first in-person meeting was held in Rick Burns' kitchen with Rick & Andrea Burns, Erin Thomas, Anne Vaughan and Ruth Bleau in attendance, the first order of business was all about a mission. The first mission became to be an advocate for the artists ...as well as promote and highlight the numerous artists and creative activity that resides in & around Berwick that most locals knew very little about...the group also to begin to organize and promote several events that were for the artists growth, peer support and to grow connection to and visibility in the community. The BAA mission and website were shared on social media and in less than two days the BAA had well over 100 member artists from across Maine and New Hampshire either signed up for future inclusion or that volunteered or contributed immediately. After a few more meetings with a handful of people in attendance, a Y-ART sale event was held on Old Pine Hill Road with hand painted signs put out around town. Berwick Art Association gained several more valuable stable members after this event, Beth Wittenberg, Bob Farrell, Gloria Houlne, William Sanger, and Justin Bloom. The artists, photographers, printmakers and designers began to meet weekly at the Berwick Public Library. BAA went on to plan and hold several public events that highlighted the creatives living in and around Berwick. Events like Lady in Red, Red Saturday & Red Sheep Take-over street series and several other collaborative art shows or artists' events, as well as sending members to advocate to the town officials on the importance of supporting creativity while growing the town. In 2014 Erin Thomas stepped back and started MODspoke, a blog & portal to promote the art & artists and study the rural arts market and Justin Bloom took over as BAA director and lead a community mural on the Prime Tanning wall. Bloom moved on to pursue a design career after the mural was completed and in 2015 as many of the BAA members joined Blackbird Studio in North Berwick to continue to show work with gallery & studio owner Jean Coughlin. Blackbird Studio & MODspoke paired up to continue the artist led event series with Lady Blackbird, and they held monthly meetings and several successful public gallery openings and a guest series including acclaimed Author Carolyn Chute. Artists Beth Wittenberg and Gloria Houlne continued holding BAA meetings open for peer support until 2019. In 2017, BAA members Scott McKinnon & Ruth Bleau & Christy Bruna along with Lisa Wheeler opened up a pop-up Gallery in Somersworth NH called V!be. V!be was able to draw and showcase several new artists from the area and hold several successful art openings and events during their pop-up period. BAA, Blackbird, MODspoke & V!be are all currently inactive, but they will always be known as the legendary Rural Avant Garde for their attempts to turn a growing rural town into a true art community. These artists brought something amazing to the community for a number of years, and we thank them and hope we can continue the legacy in 2023!